TCHAIKOVSKY:  The Nutcracker Ballet (complete)
 Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orch/Antal Dorati, cond. 
 Suite No. 3 in G, Op. 55.  Suite No. 4 in G, Op. 61 "Mozartiana" 
New Philharmonia Orchestra/Antal Dorati, cond.

PHILIPS 464 747 (2 CDs) (M) (ADD) TT:  150:04
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NOTE: At the time of this review—May 2001—this set was reviewed as an import. As of now (Aug. 2003), it is not available except as an import, and, fortunately, the earlier Duo issue is still available)

A welcome release indeed, which creates an odd situation for the collector. This new remastering of Dorati's superb 1975 Nutcracker is slightly superior to its first issue on CD (Philips Duo 442562) which coupled it with an extended suite from the same composer's Sleeping Beauty ballet with Anatole Fistoulari and the London Symphony—the latter a brilliant performance, superbly recorded.  We can probably expect the Duo issue to disappear, which means Fistoulari's superb Tchaikovsky will be out of the catalog.  In its place we have the third and fourth of Tchaikovsky's orchestral suites,  previously issued in another Duo set ( 454253) which included all four orchestral suites;  presumably this will be deleted as well, which means Suites 1 and 2 also will disappear from the catalog.  The dilemma is that Dorati's Orchestral suites 1 and 2 deserve to be in the catalog —and now that Philips has recoupled the third and fourth suites with Nutcracker it seems unlikely they will appear on CD.  Why didn't Philips simply include Fistoulari's Sleeping Beauty on their "Great Recording" issue?  The logical thing to do is to issue another twin-CD set containing Fistoulari's SB and Suites 1 and 2—however, had Philips  been "logical" in the first place, they wouldn't have coupled Nutcracker with suites 1 and 2....but that, perhaps, would have been too much to expect.

There's no question that the 96kHz 24-bit "super digital transfer" is somewhat superior to the Duo set.  Dorati's Nutcracker sonically always was one of the finest Philips recordings in the Concertgebouw.  Now it sounds more impressive than ever, quite superior to most recent Decca recordings with the same orchestra made almost a quarter-century later.  I've noticed some slight extraneous sounds in the recording that were unnoticeable before.

This is an outstanding issue—the finest complete Nutcracker on CD, even though it's an analog recording made a quarter-century ago.  Recommended in spite of coupling problems mentioned above.

R.E.B.